Wisconsin Lawyers Say Bar Exam Is an Ineffective Way to Test Attorney Competence

Wisconsin Lawyers Say Bar Exam Is an Ineffective Way to Test Attorney Competence

After practicing as an attorney for 60 years and formerly serving as the Wisconsin State of Bar president, Wisconsin Attorney Franklyn M. Gimbel, believes that the bar exam does little to prove an attorney’s effectiveness.

“I know a lot of lawyers who have misbehaved—I’ve represented some of them,” says the former State Bar of Wisconsin president. “While the bar exams have become more difficult and longer, I’m not sure if you look at a lawyer a couple of decades down the road that the bar exam really was a filter.”

Gordon Smith, the dean of J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University who once taught law at the University of Wisconsin had this to say about diploma privilege: “Law schools aren’t set up to be the gatekeepers to the profession in the same way they might be if they really were the gatekeepers,” Smith said. “I suspect that those of us who taught at Wisconsin or Marquette recognize that there’s a special obligation to ensure that the students who graduate are competent to practice law. We’re the last stop, other than character and fitness.”

In other words, law professors in the state of Wisconsin are aware of the importance of education in law school for the purpose of being a competent lawyer, not educating for the purpose of passing the bar exam.

Margaret Raymond, dean of the University of Wisconsin wrote this in an email: “It is critically important for states to think about flexible ways to assure new graduates that they can work as lawyers and to assure the many prospective clients with unmet legal needs that new law graduates will be able to serve them,” Raymond wrote. “There are many ways to do that; diploma privilege is certainly one that has worked very well for us.”


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